Echo in Time: Winter 1307-1309 Part 3

Ruby was true to her word. She returned with Alair and Emma before midday the next day.

Nash grabbed Alair and held him so tightly that he squeaked in surprise.

Jacqueline took the baby upstairs to her cradle. “So you’re the little Emmaline Howland?” she said. “I think we’ll get along fine. At least you’re cute.”

Against all odds, this arrangement looked like it might work out after all.

Jacqueline was not exactly a good cook, but she was determined.

Some of the harvest was lost to the frost, but the cow was still milking and the hens were laying. They drank plenty of milk and ate a lot of eggs. At least they were easy to prepare.

Nash’s tension began to ease. For the first time in almost a year, he began to sleep deeply and restfully.

In many ways, Jacqueline was the opposite of Emmaline. She was impulsive, playful, and bold. Nothing seemed to intimidate her.

She was always doing something unexpected to make Nash laugh or just stop to appreciate the world.

She was also passionate.

She and Alair connected almost immediately.

“This kid is going to grow up to be a minstrel, mark my words,” she told Nash. “Just listen to what he can do already!” Nash couldn’t make any sense of the noise Alair was making, but he enjoyed the fact that it made both them them happy.

When Alair made the worst racket, Jacqueline seemed the most proud of him.

Nash found other ways to bond with his son. Winter had set in, and with Jacqueline’s help running the farm, he suddenly had time for both his children. He felt like he was getting to know Alair for the first time.

Alair sometimes had more attention than his little body could handle.

With another adult to handle the children, Nash was free to take extended trips away from the house. He jumped at the chance to add some fresh meat to their food supply.

Pickings were thin, but when he managed to bring down a deer, the venison fed them days.

Sometimes he just took a moment to enjoy the beauty of the snow-cover land around him.

Though food was tight in general, they did manage enough of a surplus in eggs that it was worth a couple of trips to the market. Jacqueline made those journeys to take some time away from the house and see some other people. Later in the season, the cow was generous enough that the could also sell some soft cheese.

Emma grew into a lovely toddler.

Nash could see Emmaline in her face, and he was instantly enchanted by her.

She wasn’t interested in sound the way Alair was, but she could spend hours fitting blocks and shapes together.

Then Jacqueline learned that she was expecting. “I’ve always been the favorite aunt,” she said. “Now I’m a step-mother. I guess it’s time to go in all the way.”

Nash built a small extension onto the home for the growing family.

Jacqueline didn’t have a wonderful time with pregnancy. As her belly grew, she grew snappish at Nash and repulsed when he touched her.

Nash was too nervous about her and the coming child to take it very personally. He took to spending more time out of the house. Cutting firewood was a good place to take out his frustration.

When he was home, Jacqueline often spent afternoons outside playing her lute. She didn’t say it directly, but she clearly had her own misgivings about impending motherhood.

As the long winter at last began to peek into spring, she gave birth to a son, who she named Lafe. Childbirth was incredibly smooth, and she felt better almost immediately.

Soon she was back to her playful self again.

Lafe looked to be the spitting image of his mother. Nash didn’t realize just how tightly his heart had been squeezed with worry until he saw both mother and baby healthy and happy.

Still, he felt no longing for more children. He only wished that the Watcher would let him keep the family he had.

And we’re finally done with the winter! Woo!

Emmaline has been enjoying her afterlife.

She also seems to approve of Nash and his new wife.


Echo in Time: Winter 1307-1309 Part 2

[This STILL doesn’t get us through the winter, so there will be a part 3. This whole idea of writing one post per season may not float. I don’t expect every season to be this eventful, though.]

As snow piled deeper outside the Howland house, Nash wrapped his children in thick blankets against the cold. Food was running thin, and so was firewood. Nash’s illness faded after the last chance at harvest was past. The cow was still giving milk, and the chickens still laid a few eggs huddled up in their henhouse, but it wouldn’t be enough. Nash had a decision to make, and it broke his heart.

He bundled up the children and walked them into Mahlsberg, trying to keep them warm. Ruby and Gerbald, to their credit, gave him no trouble when he asked if Alair and Emma could stay with them for a few days while he looked for work in Praaven City. It was understood that he need not come back for them, but nobody said that.

Thus found himself alone inside of the walls of the city after dark, walking through drifts of snow and thinking. The last seven years of his wife were wiped away. His family was gone. He couldn’t keep the farm alone, and he wasn’t sure he even wanted to try. He had rebuilt the place expecting to purge it of dark memories, and instead it had only gathered more. He wasn’t sure he ever wanted to return. Perhaps the place was cursed. Perhaps the Watcher considered it too tainted by blasphemy.

He could return to the workhouse. It wasn’t a joyful life, but they didn’t ask questions. He would have food and a bed, and he wouldn’t need to think for a while. It had worked for him as an orphaned teenager. It was familiar.

“You filthy whore!” A man’s shout cut through his attention. Around the corner, he saw a man and a woman in the middle of an argument.

“You are not going to hit me, Dagon,” the woman shouted back.

“Like hell I won’t! You deserve worse!”

“You want to be that kind of man? I thought you were better than that.” Then she dropped her voice and said, “It didn’t have to end like this.”

Her voice…. what was it about her voice?

Nash’s numbed mind was working again, and he was finally moving. He was not going to stand back while a woman was abused. He threw himself between them. “What in Watcher’s name are you doing?” he demanded.

“We’re fine,” the man, Dagon, growled. “This is none of your business.”

Nash turned on him. “Are you kidding me? You’re threatening this woman out in the middle of the street! This is everyone’s business!”

“You don’t know what she did!” Dagon shrieked.

“I don’t care what she did!” Nash said.

“Mess with me and I’ll make you regret it!” Dagon shouted.

“You want to try me?” Nash said.

“Dagon, go home,” the woman said.

Dagon looked up the hill at her, then back to Nash. Rage distorted his face… but also pain. He started to move, and Nash tensed for a fight.

Dagon only shook his fist. “You’re a whore, Jackie. You can dress yourself up nice, but you’ll always be a whore. You disgust me.” Then he turned and stalked away. Nash let out his breath.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”

Nash turned to look at her then, and suddenly his knees felt weak. “…Jacqueline?”

She frowned staring at him. “Nashie? Can that be you?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Nash said. “I heard you’d gone someplace far from here.”

“I did,” she said. “Then I came back. Where are you living these days? I’m not going home, or not to that home anyway, and you and I need to have a long talk.”

“It’s out of town,” Nash stammered. “Actually, it’s the old Howland farm.”

“You went back there?” she asked with wide eyes.

“I fixed it up,” he said. “For my wife.”

“Oh,” Jacqueline said, nodding. “I bet she wouldn’t like to see some girl from your past turn up on her doorstep.”

Nash shook his head. “She’s gone,” he said, feeling his chest grow tight again. “Things didn’t… turn out like I planned.”

Jackie put her hands on her hips. “All right then. I have time. Show me what you did with the place.”

“It’s a long walk from here in the cold and snow,” Nash said.

Jacqueline shrugged. “It turns out I have plenty of time, and my plans canceled. Also, I have nowhere to stay at the moment, so unless you want to pay for an inn, your place is what we have.”

So he led her back to the farm. The snow was finished for the moment. The sky was clear, and the wind was low. Jacqueline told him her story in broad strokes — not long after the Howland fire, she joined up with a troupe of traveling minstrels to see the world. And she had seen some fascinating places, but the work was seasonal, and winter wasn’t the season. She and Dagon had been paramours for a while, but he’d gotten very possessive in recent months, and well, “We’d never had any expectation of being faithful,” she said, “And he certainly wasn’t.”

Nash listened in silence and grunted his sympathy. Then he let her draw out his story in bits and pieces until at last they were back at the farm house.

Jacqueline looked around appraisingly. “You built it back better,” she said. “I see that there’s only one bed, and I’m exhausted. I hope you don’t plan to be weird about it.

Nash was too exhausted himself to make any protest.

In the morning, they continued to talk over sandwiches.

“So, you have two small children and a farm to tend and no wife,” Jacqueline said. “Those are hard times.”

Nash just chewed and glared.

“I think I could be a help with this problem. Do you want my help?”

Nash dropped his sandwich back onto his plate and stared at her. “What exactly do you have in mind?”

“I grew up on a farm, Nashie, same as you. I know my way around cows and crops. I even like kids. You need a woman to run this place with you, and I happen to be one.”

Nash was dumbfounded. “Why would you do that?” he asked.

“Because I like you, Nashie, and you deserve better,” she said. “I never forgot all those plans that we made before everything went wrong.”

“I– don’t know what to say,” Nash said. And he didn’t say anything more as they gathered up the dishes.

“Think about it,” Jacqueline said. “And think about those babies. You sound like a great father. You should be taking care of them. I want to make that happen.”

She drew close then and caressed his cheek. “Do you remember all the hours under the apple trees, making plans? I remember how you looked at me then.” Nash looked into her eyes, and for a moment he was back there. It had been such a happy time, a world away — a time filled with all kinds of promise. Nothing had turned out the way they planned. It had been months before he could look for her after the fire, and by then she had already left.

She leaned in to kiss him, and that was enough to break the spell. He jerked back. “Jackie, I–”

“Oh,” Jacqueline said. “No is an acceptable answer. I just thought, well.”

“This is all so fast,” Nash said. “You can’t just move in here. I have to… I mean Emmaline was… I couldn’t be like you and Dagon. I need to stay right with the Watcher.”

Jacqueline let out a surprised bark of laughter. “Nash Howland found religion? I didn’t see that coming.”

Nash looked at the floor. “You wouldn’t have,” he said.

She cocked her head and gave him a long look. “So, let me get this straight. You want me stay, but only if we get married. Is that right?”

Nash looked at her helplessly, a dozen feelings tangled in his head. He nodded.

“All right then,” she said. “I guess we’ll have to get married.”

Then before Nash could really believe it was happening, it was over.

Jacqueline drew the line at a church wedding. They were married on the farm, on a hill overlooking Praaven City in the distance.

Ruby, Gerbald, and their eldest son attended, along with a minstrel friend of Jacqueline’s and, of course, Nash’s old friend Boggs.

As he slipped the ring on Jacqueline’s finger, hope swelled in Nash’s chest like pain. Those old teenager feelings came back, dusty and confused, the longer he spent time with Jackie. But neither of them were the same person they’d been back then. Was this the right decision?

He could only hope so.

After the ceremony, guests gathered in the house where it was warm to congratulate the new couple, drink mulled cider, and laugh.

“I will bring the children back in the morning” Ruby promised. “I assume you want a night to yourselves.”

“Of course we do,” Jacqueline said before Nash could respond. “You’ve been so kind. Thank you.”

Ruby’s disapproving scowl softened. “I wish you both the best,” she said.

At last, Jacqueline herded family and friends out of the house and waved them goodbye. She turned on Nash. “So are we good in the eyes of your Watcher now?” she demanded.

“Yes?” Nash said hesitantly.

She grabbed his arm and pulled him into a kiss.

“If you’ve done your duty, then let’s get to the good part,” she said.

And they did.

Jacqueline was the girlfriend that NRaas stuck Nash with while he was in the middle of courting Emmaline, because of course it did. He was definitely single when they started courting, but not when he joined the household. I had him send her a breakup text before he proposed to Emmaline, but their relationship stayed incredibly high.

I’d been scouting for single women Nash had chemistry with, or even some he didn’t, but NRaas had been thorough. I’d just concluded that I was going to have to break up a couple in order for Nash to have a shot at remarrying when he took an opportunity to deliver fish to a townie and there she was in that alarming argument with her romantic interest. Lo-and-behold, she was still single (if only technically — she’d clearly been having a good time). Their relationship and attraction scores were very high.

Jacqueline is almost Emmaline’s opposite — Brave, Lucky, Absent Minded, Virtuoso, and something else I can’t remember. I’ve decided that her health/death rolls will get a bonus due to the Lucky trait.

In conclusion, I offer a few wardrobe malfunctions:



The problem with loading up with cc is that some folks are going to screw it up. I’m still rooting out the bad stuff.

Echo in Time: Winter 1307-1309 Part 1

[Note: My intent was to tell each season, which spans three years, as its own post. But SO MUCH happened this winter that I decided to break it out into two parts.]

The first snow of the season began to fall outside the the Howland home. The sudden cold suited Nash Howland. He felt the chill in his heart.

Emmaline Weaver Howland was dead. Her life had been snatched away after only a few years of precious happiness.

She left behind a a newborn baby girl with Nash’s dark eyes and curling wisps of her own strawberry hair.

Nash laid his baby girl gently in the the cradle he’d lined with fresh straw. She cooed at him, and his heart broke all over again.

He could barely breathe. What would happen to them now?

He got word to Emmaline’s kin as quickly has he could, which was painfully slow. The newborn babe now had no mother to nurse, and Nash had to focus on getting cow’s milk into her, lest he lose them both. He flagged down a messenger going into town and paid the lad to deliver the message.

Ruby and Gerbald dropped everything as soon as they heard. They left their two young sons with neighbors and arrived laden with enough food to last Nash for weeks. The three of them put the children to bed and managed the dark task of burying Emmaline. Afterward, Nash could only sit at the table and stare straight ahead.

Ruby gave her husband an unreadable look. “Our home can hold two more, can’t it?” she said.

Gerbald’s brows knit. “Yes, but I don’t see–”

“Nash should leave the children with us,” Ruby said.

“You want me to abandon my children?” Nash asked.

“I know you’re grieving,” Ruby said. “But you have to think about this. You can’t possibly run this farm alone while raising a toddler and an infant. Your land is too far from town for us to be able to offer the kind of assistance you need. Your life is your own, but please think of your children.”

“I am not going to abandon my family,” Nash said.

Gerbald took a deep breath and looked at Nash with the eyes of someone who desperately wanted to be anywhere but here. “They are welcome with us, if you think it is best,” he said.

Nash just glowered down at his plate.

“Would you set your stubborn pride aside for just a moment?” Ruby demanded. “If you stay here with the children, the babe won’t make it through the winter.”

Nash stood up abruptly. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for Emmaline,” he growled. “But I can care for my own family, and I will.”

Ruby jumped to her feet and glared at him. “Emmaline chose you, and I will never understand why,” she said. “We loved her, and we love her children because they are hers. We can’t make you think. We can only hope you come to your senses while the children still have a chance.”

She swept out of the house.

Gerbald looked at Nash with sad eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said. He looked like he wanted to say more, but instead he just followed his wife out the door.

To her credit, Ruby did arrange for a town girl to watch the children during the funeral.

[Note: The babysitter did that thing that babysitters do — stood at the entrance of the room and did absolutely nothing the entire time.]

Nash arrived early to spend some time in the church alone.

His footsteps echoed on the stone as he walked past the pews to stare up at the towering altar of the Watcher.

Nash had never believed. He hadn’t believed even before the fire that had killed his family and left him alone as an orphan teenager in a workhouse, but that certainly sealed his skepticism. He’d taken pleasure out of making others uncomfortable with his irreverence.

Emmaline had been sure he would bring the Watcher’s wrath down on their family. Now she was dead. The Watcher had made his point.

He begged forgiveness and pledged to dedicate the rest of his life to the Watcher’s service. If only, please, the great deity would not make his children pay for his mistakes.

He stood by as Gerbald delivered the eulogy He wondered if the Watcher had heard his plea. Even if it was too late for him, what mattered now were Alair and Emma.

That night, alone in the house at last with his children, he put the little ones to bed and tried to quiet the shouting in his head. Was Ruby right? Was it just pride that led him to insist on raising them? Was he… putting them in danger? He couldn’t bear to think of sending them away.

Even anxiety couldn’t keep him awake after this day. He was so exhausted he could barely move. He collapsed into the empty bed and slept.

When he awoke, Alair was already up and happily making a mess all over the floor. And that was the first day of his new life.

Emma took well to cow’s milk and seemed to be growing well. That was one deadly danger Nash could worry less about.

Perhaps that was a first sign of the Watcher’s favor. He could only hope.

It’s not as if he was likely to run out of things to worry about.

As an extra blessing, the weather turned warmer, giving Nash a few extra days to prepare for the freeze as best he could. He needed to bring in the last of the harvest that Emmaline had left. They needed to be a stockpile of firewood, especially with two little ones less prepared to endure the cold. Soon, the ponds would freeze over, so the last catch had to be dried and smoked for storage.

The livestock still needed to be tended. Chickens fed. Cow milked. Their homes needed to be prepared for the winter.

[Note: These screenshots do occur in this place in the game chronology, after the first snows started. Temperatures swing up and and down in the transition between seasons, so that part is fine, but they look summertime green rather than autumnal. I have no memory as to why. It does look like the plants behind him might be evergreen?]

And in any spare moment, there was an endless supply of dirty nappies.

Alair was fascinated by sound and rhythm. They were the only things that could keep his attention for long. When Nash could hear him banging out rough tunes with a stick, he at least knew the kid wasn’t causing any trouble. The sound carried out into the barnyard and Nash could listen for it while he worked.

There was so much to do, he could seldom make time to feed his son himself. He filled bowls with food and left them within Alair’s reach. He was raising the poor boy to be a savage, but it was better that he be fed. Hopefully there would be time in the future to teach him proper manners.

Thoughts of Emmaline haunted him whenever he took a moment’s rest. He missed her so badly. He was desperately lonely on the farm with only two depended mouths to feed for company.

He saved his tears for when he was out of the house. Emma was too young to know, but he didn’t want Alair to see his father in such a state.

One afternoon, he choked on a sob, and he came back out in a fit of rattling cough.

The tightness in his chest was no longer just grief. He was getting sick.

He didn’t have time to be sick. The family’s fate this winter depended on what he could do right now. It would be his fault if the children went cold, or hungry, or worse.

He wiped his running nose and pushed on through a feverish haze.

Exhaustion was an endless cycle that never, ever stopped.

Ruby was right. He couldn’t give his children a real life by himself. He wanted to keep them with him, but if he couldn’t find a better way, they would face a much better future if he sent them away.

Oof. I hope this was kind of wrenching to read because it tore me up to play it. This whole segment was both frantic and tragic.

There wasn’t enough time in the day for Nash to do everything he needed to do on the farm and drop everything to feed the baby every few hours. Alair made constant messes with FloTheory’s Make a Mess — a mod that, I may add, makes playing with toddlers MUCH more realistic.

Nash then caught a cold (with my Symptoms for Seasons) that ran his energy down faster. With all the time it took to feed Emma, he couldn’t stop to also feed Alair (no bottles in normal situations — if there’s no one to breastfeed, a toddler must be fed baby food), I ended up feeding him with Zoeoe’s Toddler Bowls. But Nash couldn’t go into town to sell fish/produce to earn any money, and a mere §25 per meal was wiping out their savings.

So yeah, nothing manipulated for story purposes —  he really couldn’t do it alone.

Echo in Time: Year 1304 – 1306

Nash was was filled with wonder and delight by the news that he would finally be father.

He set about doing everything he could to make her pregnancy an easy one. In addition to his own work, he took on half of hers.

The proceeds from their last successful trips to the market were enough to buy a cow. (Imagine this is just one cow. I found CC later. They couldn’t have afforded THREE cows).

Babies needed milk, after all. What if there wasn’t enough milk?

In the meantime, Emmaline set about learning to make cheese. Milk itself was difficult to keep fresh to sell at the market, but cheese would bring a great price.

Emmaline had heard stories about pregnancy, but that wasn’t the same as living it. The persistent nausea and aches wore her down.

She was boundlessly grateful to Nash for all his help, both the big things and the little things, like a backrub when she felt achiest.

She tried to stay positive, but she knew that pregnancies were dangerous. She had been old enough to remember when her mother lost what would have been another baby brother, and a woman in her childhood village had died in childbirth.

There were so many things that could go wrong, and the fear struck her at odd moments when Nash was away fishing.

Still her pregnancy seemed to be progressing normally. When she was far enough along to share the news, they invited Aunt Ruby and Uncle Gerbald to see the farm. Emmaline was so proud of the little home they’d built for themselves.

Aunt Ruby had delivered a healthy little boy, and they named him Adam. He was old enough now to stay with neighbors for an afternoon while the Weavers went visiting.

They were thrilled to learn that Emmaline was expecting. Their children would be close together in age. Uncle Gerbald was especially delighted. Fatherhood was sitting well with him. He loved babies, and he thought everyone should have at least one.

Nash still hadn’t proven himself as a worthy husband in their eyes, however. One sarcastic remark about parenting life, and he found himself on the receiving end of a long lecture from Aunt Ruby. She knew what Emmaline was going through, she insisted, and she needed a husband who would take his responsibility seriously!

Nash just hung his head and didn’t even try to defend himself.

“She means well,” Emmaline said when they had gone.

“I know,” Nash said with a rueful grin. “I have a reputation. I understand that they want to protect you, but that’s my job now.”

Emmaline blushed.

At last, as they were settling down to bed one evening, the moment came that she’d been both anticipating and dreading. Contractions came, fast and painful.

Now was the time. Nash was helpless, and he hated being helpless. As the pain grew, Emmaline was struck by a sudden terror — could she handle childbirth? Was it too much for her?

It turned out she could after all. In due time, she delivered a baby boy, who they named Alair.

Time passed in an exhausted haze for a while. Tending to little Alair was the most challenging thing Emmaline had ever done. Nash built her a rocking chair so she could at least rest while she was feeding him.

And he took the next trip to the market because she couldn’t leave.

The air was growing colder. Winter was not too far away. They set about drying fish and storing all the food they could toward a time when the garden would go dormant and the ponds freeze over.

Alair continued to grow up healthy and strong. At last, Emmaline decided he was strong enough to leave home, and she insisted on presenting him to the Watcher at church on Sunday. Nash trailed along sullenly, thinking of other things.

The village blessed the littlest Howland and wished him long life.

All the women, her aunt in particular, were full of advice.

Nash caught up with his friend from his workhouse days.

Emmaline hurried to bring in the last harvest as frost loomed.

Then the pond froze over. There could expect no more fish until Spring.

The Harvest Fest came, and the entire village held a feast in the meeting hall above the market to celebrate the year’s bounty.

Little Alair slept in a makeshift bed of straw in the corner while everyone laughed and ate and visited around him.

Everyone brought something to share. They ate until they were almost too full to roll home.

They had cold and careful rationing to look forward to for a while now.

But there was a light in the long dark. There would be another baby soon.

Alair grew into a healthy and active toddler with his father’s hair and his mother’s eyes.

Nash jumped into the task of teaching his son his first words, which proved to be a frustrating job.

Before winter hit with full force, they were blessed with a bout of false summer. The pond thawed enough for Nash to catch a few more fish, and Emmaline was able to glean a bit more from the garden. She thanked the Watcher for their generosity. Her life was full of joy in ways she could never have imagined a few short years ago.

One the first day of winter, it was time for the baby to come.

This time Nash had an important role. He kept Alair out of her way as she did what was needed.

She delivered a beautiful baby girl who already had a shock of her mother’s hair.

This delivery left her much more drained than the last one.

And as much as she tried to soldier on, she was growing weaker.

As she readied herself to go out in the morning, she was struck by a wave of lightheadedness. She set down her little girl just in case.

And then she collapsed on the floor.

Nash came downstairs to the sound of the baby’s cries and found her. She was already gone. After six short, wonderful years of marriage, she had to leave her beloved family behind. Her only wish was that it could have been longer.

Numb with grief, he named the baby girl Emma after her mother.

I’m sorry guys! I was sitting there with my kid, who was having fun watching the challenge. And I said, “You have to roll to see if the baby survives, and there’s a very small chance of the mother dying in childbirth.” Then I rolled for the mom and got a 1 on a d20, which was the only roll that would have killed her.

And thus passes my founder. I was really attached to her. The challenge will have to take a different path from here. Nash will have to remarry. I’m going to take my cheat for this generation to try to keep one of Emmaline’s children alive to be heir, but I’ll have to decide whether Nash’s children or Ruby and Gerbald’s children are my backup heirs.

I guess this is what I signed up for.

Echo in Time: Year 1301 – 1303

“This is my family home,” Nash said. “It burned down when I was a kid and took my parents with it.”

Emmaline gaped at the cottage. “This is beautiful,” she said. “Where could the fire have been?”

“Oh, right,” Nash said, as if he had just remembered. “I spent the last few years rebuilding the house when work in town was thin,” he said. “I hope you won’t mind living here. It was a farm, but the fields are all grown over. We’ll have to start with almost nothing.”

“By the Watcher, I am truly blessed,” Emmaline said.

Nash caught her legs and knocked her off balance. “What are you doing?” she cried out.

“I’m carrying you over the threshold, my lady Harlond,” Nash said.

“I’m too heavy for this!” she said.

“Nonsense!” Nash retorted. “You’re light as a… ungh… feather… urgh.”

He plopped her on the floor in the main room and took her hand, drawing her upstairs to the loft. Emmaline realized that the bed would be there and froze. “I… I don’t know if I…”

Nash squeezed her hand. “One great thing about having nothing is that nobody wants to prove anything about what we did or didn’t do on our wedding night. I’ve never done this either. I figure we’ll just try what we like and see what happens.”

“You haven’t… ?” Emmaline stared at him with wide eyes. She’d heard all about boys and wild oats and the loose women who helped sew them. Nash had seemed, well, like one of those boys.

Nash scowled. “No matter what the girls told you, men aren’t born experts at woohoo.”

They took their time, and everything worked out fine.

Their first morning as a married couple began early and worked them hard. Nash’s trade, in as much as he had one, was as a fisherman.

The fish he brought home weren’t much, but they would have to make do.

Emmaline set herself to sorting what they might be able to glean from the farm to feed themselves that season.

A couple of apple trees remained on the property and still bore fruit. That was a start, at least.

The garden itself took far more work before she could even begin planting. Summer had already begun. They had no time to waste if they were going to have any harvest at all to tide them through the winter.

She was caught unprepared for the coughing fit when it tore through her body.

For minutes afterward, she could only stand and gasp for breath. Something was very wrong.

At the fishing hole, Nash began to feel it too.

The fever hit that night. And the nausea.

Emmaline felt as if her body were burning from the inside out.

Nash could barely keep down water.

They held each other in bed, shivering and sweating by turns, and wondered if they were already looking at the end of their lives.

“Could this be vengeance of the Watcher?” Emmaline whispered to him when they were both lucid. “Did our wedding displease it?” She did not say anything directly about Nash’s blasphemy, but they both knew what she meant.

“Nonsense,” Nash retorted. “If the Watcher watches at all, it cares nothing for the likes of us.”

Sure enough, slowly the waves of heat and chill eased. Their heads began to clear.

At last, Nash was able to make it to the fishing hole and bring back dinner to roast over the fire. After days of sustaining themselves with apples and water, it tasted like heaven.

“See?” Nash said. “Nobody watches the lives of peasants like us. We are the only ones who can build our destiny.”

His impiousness made Emmaline nervous, and she whispered a prayer to the Watcher for both their sakes.

They later learned that the illness had swept through Marhlberg, starting around the time of their wedding. There had been no deaths, thank the Watcher, but there were many stories of death’s shadow barely passing by. Emmaline was grateful that it hadn’t been worse and didn’t mention to Nash her worries about the timing of the disease. He would only tell her that she was talking nonsense.

She returned to her work in the garden. Emmaline had gardened with her mother before everything changed. Making things grow made her feel close to her lost family. She had a knack for it. Soon the garden with filled with sprouts and cheerful budding leaves.

The first day she was able to serve them a meal she had grown herself, she felt that she had proved her worth in an important way. Nash brought home fish, but she could feed them too and the family they hoped to build.

The family they hoped for had not yet begun, though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

“Could there be… more we should be doing?” Emmaline fretted.

Nash rolled his eyes. “If so, we’ll have to get used to being childless. There’s no reason to give up hope. We’re young, and the trying is too much fun to stop.”

Emmaline flushed at the way he looked at her. She knew that woohoo was for making children. It unsettled to admit how much she liked it for raw pleasure it brought. Even now that her marriage was comfortable and familiar, Nash could make her heart beat faster just by touching her hand.

And Nash… well, Nash was shameless. The thought that his zeal for woohoo might be inappropriate only made him enjoy it more.

She doubled her secret prayers to the Watcher, just in case. And she resolved to ask Aunt Ruby if there was anything, an infusion of herbs perhaps, that might help to bring on a baby. Not that children had easy to come by for her aunt and uncle either.

There was no end to the work, and the days were long. Emmaline couldn’t bear to imagine them living in filth, and she made time to scrub their home clean when she could spare time from the garden.

Sometimes she found herself scrubbing their laundry as night fell because there was no other time to do it.

One night Emmaline awoke to a clattering sound downstairs. Nash still slept soundly. She tried to convince herself that it was an animal or her imagination.

The clattering continued. She crept to the stairwell and glimpsed a dark man moving in the floor below.

She managed a scream before fainting dead away.

Her cry brought Nash surging out of bed, but the man escaped before he could catch it.

The damage was substantial. The burglar had looted most of their food supplies. Worst of all, their stove had been destroyed.

They were left with only the fire outside to to cook their food until they could find a way to make enough to money for the supplies to build a new one.

While gardening in a sudden thunderstorm, Emmaline was struck by lightning.

Nash returned home to find her curled on the bed, scorched and weak. She was feeling much better by the next morning. Nash met her inevitable worry about the anger of the Watcher with a scowl. She had survived, he said. Perhaps it was a sign of the Watcher’s favor.

Just when it seemed they could take no more hardship, things began to improve.

The fish were biting. Nash began to bring home enormous, plump catches, far more than they could eat.

The farm was flourishing under Emmaline’s adept hands and yielding crops in abundance.

At last, they had enough to bring to the market in town.

While selling her produce, Emmaline ran into Aunt Ruby. There hadn’t been much opportunity to visit since her marriage, but she hadn’t tried to make any either. She couldn’t face telling her family the news and giving Uncle Gerbald a reason to think he had been right about Nash.

Now, however, she had plenty of good things to report. Aunt Ruby was delighted to hear it. She also reported that she was expecting a child. Emmaline knew they had been hoping for a baby for a long time without success, but she still hid a small flame of jealousy.

The proceeds from the market were enough to replace their oven.

While working in the garden, Emmaline was struck by a pang of nausea. Her first thought was fear that another malaise would fall on the household.

Not this time. At long last, she was expecting her first child.

So that’s the summer season and the first three years of Nash and Emmaline Howland’s life together. I currently have seasons set to 10 day at 3 sim days per calendar year. Seasons were never going to line up with the calendar.

Some notes on gameplay: Something is not working with Woohooer. I have it set to treat woohoo and TFB as Risky and Risky’s success rate at 25%. After most of the summer and more than a dozen woohoos, she was still not pregnant. I gave up and started rolling a die for every woohoo and pollinating with MasterController. The townies are breeding happily, so the problem shouldn’t be anything involving the StoryProgression settings or the connection between SP and Woohooer. I’m fiddling more with the settings, and if she gets pregnant without a manual roll, I’ll stop rolling manually. I’d rather like to be surprised by a pregnancy :).

Regarding their illness: They both came down with the Germy moodlet at their wedding. I’ve always been bugged by the fact that Seasons introduced an illness and allergies with great mechanics except for the fact that the moodlets themselves are so forgettable that you don’t even realize you have them. I tried giving my sims the Pestilence Plague moodlet. I’ve seen in the code that it has symptoms, but I’d never seen in in action because my witches don’t generally curse people, especially with deadly curses. Wow, it is BRUTAL. I knew it had the coughing fit animation, but it also brings nausea and vomiting, drops hygiene, and has a disgust broadcaster to make everyone nearby gross out. It’s also wickedly contagious. Since Pestilence Plague is deadly unless the sim receives a magical charm, I removed it manually when the Germy moodlet completed and then had to search and remove it from several townies.

This has me contemplating a mod that would provide symptoms to the Germy and Allergy Haze moodlets. Then you could care about getting a flu vaccine or allergy shot and whatnot. But I have GOT to get Pet Fighting released first.

I’d love to stick a mechanic into my challenge where the Germy moodlet could be deadly because, y’know, medieval. If I introduce another way to die, though, I’d want to make the death rolls at age-up more generous.

They really were living hand-to-mouth until the very end of summer. The burglar and the lightning strike really added insult to injury. I don’t think I’ve ever had a sim struck by lightning. Fortunately, Emmaline was well-rested. Calling the police on a burglar isn’t very helpful in a world with no roads where the cop has to run to the house. That oven was §400 to replace when they had §25 and were living on Nash’s minnows roasted on the campfire.

I decided that I’d throw a party at the church every Sunday to simulate services, but a destination party on that lot costs §400. I thought about that and decided that this isn’t a bad simulation of tithe to the church. However, they didn’t have anywhere near that amount of money on their first Sunday together so I allowed them to skip it.

I wanted a challenge, and so far this has been it. Woot.

1st Echo: Year 1300 Continued

Emmaline was always afraid. She was afraid of the trip to the outhouse after dark, afraid of rustling sounds in the corners of the house, afraid of harsh words from her aunt and uncle, afraid for her future.

She took whatever excuse she could find to get out of the cramped house and into the village. The villagers were friendly enough, even with the pitying glances, and being near other people helped her feel grounded. It was even better if she could be useful while doing so. Her aunt and uncle worked hard and had precious little to spare. They tried to make her feel welcome, but she knew she often received food they denied themselves.

Thus she was in the market at sunrise, looking for vegetables, when she felt eyes on the back of her head. She turned around to face a man she had never seen before.

“Good morning sir,” she said with a curtsy.

He waved his hand. “They’re trying to make you marry John Burrows,” he said. “I know him pretty well. Don’t them force it if you don’t want to.”

Emmaline froze. “I’m sorry sir, I didn’t see you at church. How do you…?”

He laughed. “Don’t call me sir,” he said. “I’m Nash. I don’t hang around to listen to that windbag of a vicar, but I’m around. Everyone in Mahrlsberg knows your situation.”

Emmaline felt the back of her neck warm. She felt a flash of anger, then fear, and dropped her eyes. “Then you know, Mr. Nash, that I am a girl with no options,” she said. “I have no immediate family and no dowry. I’m dependent on the charity of my extended family who do not have the resources to support me. I cannot support myself alone. I must go where I’m sent and hope for the best.”

Nash scowled. “That’s wrong,” he said.

“Believe me, I would be delighted to have more options,” Emmaline said bitterly. “I welcome your guidance.” The square was beginning to fill with villagers on morning errands, which eased her fear at being near such a large and intimidating stranger.

Nash grunted and seemed to look at something over her shoulder. She took that dismissal, rushed through her vegetable shopping, and fled. Safe at last inside, she curled up on her got with her knees to her chin and waited until her heart stopped pounding.

In the evening, her aunt and uncle herded her to the King’s Inn for another chaperoned meeting with John Burrows.

“I’m sure with a bit of time, you’ll see what an honorable fellow he is,” Uncle Gerbald told her. “He can be a bit intense at times, but he’s quite respectable.”

“I saw someone new at the market,” Emmaline asked tentatively. “A man who called himself Nash. Do you know who he is?”

Aunt Ruby and Uncle Gerbald frowned in unison. “What did he say to you?” Gerbald demanded.

“N-nothing much,” Emmaline stammered. “He just said hello.”

“He’s a heretic,” Aunt Ruby said. “That’s why he wasn’t at church when we introduced you to the village. Almost any time he opens his mouth, it is to blaspheme the Watcher.”

“You’ll do well to stay away from him,” Uncle Gerbald added.

The King’s Inn was more boisterous than usual that evening. Emmaline found a seat in the corner and watched the village laughing and drinking. She saw John Burrows as he came in the door and scanned the crowd for her face.

Her aunt and uncle found her and escorted her across the room. They made awkward smalltalk about the weather while her chaperones looked anywhere but at them.

A drunken man climbed up on the bar behind them and began to sing loudly and dance.

“This is more entertainment than I was expecting,” John said at the crowd hooted and cheered at the dancer.

“Everyone seems so happy,” Emmaline said, trying not to sound as miserable as she felt.

“I want you to know that I’m truly sorry for shouting at you when we met,” John said. “I was late because of a list of frustrations, and I was in a poor mood. You didn’t deserve it.”

“Thank you,” Emmaline said. “You’re very kind. Think no more of it.”

“Very good,” John said. “I can but hope for a bride who is so gracious and eager to please.”

He started to reach out for her then. She stiffened with terror but held herself firm and waited. “Perhaps a bit more time, then,” he said. He bit her farewell then, and she hurried back to curl up in her cot.

In the morning, she was working in the garden when Nash walked by. As she watched him, he looked up and met her eyes. The look on his face was thoughtful, even kind. She quickly looked away and focused on her weeding. When she looked up, he was gone.

He wasn’t gone for long, however. He sought her out in the market on her next trip.

“You’re right,” he said. “You don’t have as many options as I would have in your shoes. I apologize for being arrogant.”

“You’re forgiven,” Emmaline said. “It was kind of you to think of my problems.”

“I thought of just one other option that you might choose for your future,” he said.

Emmaline blinked. It had been so long since she’d felt any control at all for her future. “I’m very curious!” she said.

He grinned and produced a bouquet of wildflowers. “You can marry me instead.”

Emmaline stared at the flowers as he held them out, blood draining from her face.

“Take them,” he said. “They don’t require any promise from you.”

“Why are you saying this?” she demanded. “I have enough problems. I don’t need jokes at my expense.”

“There is no joke,” Nash said. “It’s time I settled down, and I think we have a lot in common. We both lost our family young and have had to make difficult choices. That’s as good a reason as any. None of the local girls are nearly as interesting as you turn out to be.”

Emmaline reached out and touched the flowers. He pressed them into her hands. “My uncle says you are a heretic,” she stammered.

Nash gave her a wolfish grin. “I can’t argue with that,” he said. “The Watcher has an army of greedy clergy who give long boring speeches about virtue they have no intention of following themselves. I have no time for it. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether that makes me impossible to marry.”

“I have no dowry,” she said.

“I don’t need to be purchased like a trinket in the market,” he retorted. “I am reseeding my father’s farm. Any wife of mine will need to work hard with me and prove her worth that way.”

“I–” Emmaline couldn’t think of anything else to say.

They stared at each other for a long moment. Then Nash nodded his head. “Thank you for listening to my petition, my lady,” he said. “If you ask your uncle, I’m certain he will steer you away from me. I’m really not such a bad fellow if you can handle the blasphemy. Good day.” He waved to her and turned away. Emmaline stood and watched until he disappeared between buildings.

Emmaline didn’t sleep at all that night. She lay awake and stared at the moon through the window above her cot.

Why had she survived? It was a cruel joke. Any of her family would have been more capable of moving on alone than she was. She was trapped and helpless, with few possibilities each more terrifying than the last.

That’s when she realized that in all of Mahlsberg, the only person she wasn’t afraid of was Nash.

She found him the next morning at the bunkhouse for laborers on the edge of town. She had traveled alone, which by itself seemed so scandalous that she wasn’t sure she could still be a suitable bride for Mr. Burrows.

When she knocked on the door, he was the one who answered. “Miss Weaver,” he said in astonishment. It was the first time she had heard him say her name.

“If your offer is real, then I accept,” Emmaline said as fast as she could before she could freeze up.

A smile, warm and delighted, spread over Nash Harlond’s face. She found herself smiling back. “The offer is real,” he said.

“I have one condition,” she continued. He raised his eyebrows. “I need you to come with me to tell my aunt and uncle,” she said. “I don’t think I can face them both by myself.”

He laughed.

There was shouting at her uncle’s house, followed by days of tense silence, but in the end it was done. Aunt Ruby even loaned Emmaline the gown that she and her mother had both worn to their own weddings.

No matter what Nash’s ideas on religion, Emmaline would only recognize a marriage consecrated by the church. Nash didn’t protest too much, perhaps out of respect for how much of her reputation she had already given up to marry him.

She thought Aunt Ruby and Uncle Gerbald had washed their hands of her and would shun the wedding, but they arrived just as the ceremony began.

Uncle Gerbald even wished her well and made amends for harsh things he had said to her. He did not agree with her choice, but he wished her happiness.

Rings were exchanged, and they became man and wife in the eyes of the village and the Watcher.

When the ceremony was over, Nash pulled her arm, and she found herself falling.

“Now,” he said fiercely,

“You shall see that when you fall, I’ll be there to catch you.”

Most of Nash and Emmaline’s interactions were autonomous. They took her origin story someplace entirely different than what I planned.

1st Echo: Beginning, Year 1300

Sunrise in Praaven

The sun rose over the mountains to shine down on the village of Mahlsberg in the duchy of Praaven.

It was beautiful. If only it could feel like home.

Emmaline Weaver woke from another nightmare and sat on the edge of her cot to catch her breath. The cot was miserably uncomfortable, but she knew it was all her Aunt Ruby and Uncle Gerbald could offer.

The nightmares had become so familiar they were almost routine. She could feel the water swallowing her up, closing over her head. She heard her parents and her little brother shouting her name. They were all gone now, swept away in a late spring flood while trying to cross the river Vayruga. It had been a journey to spend the summer with her Weaver-side family and hopefully to find her a marriage prospect. It had all gone wrong.

Today was Sunday. Aunt Ruby helped her dress her best for services. Mahlsberg chapel was so large and grand she would have believed it was a cathedral. Uncle Gerbald assured her that there was one just like it in every village from here to the City of Praaven.

This interior was even more intimidating.

“The Vicar is always late,” Aunt Ruby confided. “There’s plenty of time to introduce you to everyone. We’ll start with Helga Hayter. She’s the undisputed matriarch of Mahlsberg. If she likes you, everyone will like you.”

Unspoken was, So it will be easier to find you a husband.

Helga Hayter looked her over. “So you’re Gelbert Weaver’s poor penniless orphan niece?”

Emmaline gulped and offered her best curtsy. “Yes ma’am. Emmaline Weaver.”

Helga smiled benignly. “You have lovely manners. You’ll fit in here just fine.”

A wave of greetings and introductions followed. The names flew in one ear and out the other.

There were plenty of young men, but would any of them want a girl whose dowry had washed down the river?

“Don’t look so forlorn, my dear,” Aunt Ruby told her. “You’re incredibly charming. The town loves you. We will find you someplace to go. In fact, I know a young man who is on the search who told me himself that he’s not particular about dowry. I’ll introduce you if he bothers to show up for services.”

Then she heard the door open and grinned over Emmaline’s shoulder. “Well! Speak of the Devil and he shall appear! You’re good and late, John Burrows.”

“Not as late as the vicar, apparently,” John said.

“Now, now, we know he has a busy schedule,” Ruby said. “Have you met my lovely and talented niece?”

“You know I haven’t,” John said. He stepped closer, and Emmaline could feel his gaze sizing her up. She trembled inside. Was he a good person? How could she know? Did he have kind eyes? “Tell me about yourself,” he said.

Emmaline opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She was petrified. The silence stretched until Mr. Burrows scowled at her. “Is that the best you can do? Stand there and wait for me to fall under your spell? You may have overestimated your charms, my lady.”

“You know what the poor girl has been through, Mr. Burrows,” Aunt Ruby interjected smoothly. “She’s overwhelmed, and she needs a bit of kindness.”

“I’m so sorry,” Burrows said. “I’ve had a long day, and it’s still morning. I humbly beg your pardon, my lady. I was out of line.”

“See?” Ruby said. “He apologizes so sweetly. He may be a bit short of temper, but John Burrows is good people.”

Emmaline tried to hold in her trembling. He did look like he meant it.

“I think I hear the Vicar,” Aunt Ruby said. “If your Uncle takes any longer to get here, he’ll have to explain himself to the Watcher.” She took Emmaline by the arm. “Come with me, dear child. I’ll show you our pew.”


Echo in Time

Also known as, “This isn’t Samples. What the heck?”

I’m playing another challenge. All the readers I know I have are now on Tumblr. I haven’t gotten a non-spam comment here in years. OTOH, I host this blog, and I’m pretty sure if I wrote fiction there I ever wanted to use for anything else, I’d ever be able to get it back out again. If I get the energy to set up another WordPress blog, I’ll probably move this stuff there. Until then, this is is my first take on a historical sims challenge.

With no commitment for how far I will go, I’m trying out a Sims 3 twist on Morbid’s Ultimate Decades Challenge. This starts in the 14th Century (anywhere, I assume, but I’m going with the white American default of medieval England) and progresses through time with a strict ratio of sim days to the year. Gameplay changes to fit historic events. The beginning is going to suck because life expectancy in the 1300s was ass, particularly infant mortality. And whoever survives will get to roll again to die in the Black Plague. This is a game where you need a hierarchy of heirs.

I hate telling stories where everything is bland and nobody faces any challenges. After 13 years, I have the mechanics of The Sims down, and I can mitigate almost anything the game throws at me. I have to make bad things happen on my own, and I’m terrible at that because I get too attached to my characters. So I shall hand over responsibility for tragedy to a very cruel 20-sided die and a whole bunch of probability calculations.

Modifications from Morbid’s Challenge

Lifespan and Survival

I was compelled to do my own research in to medieval life expectancy, and my probabilities came out different from Morbid’s. I also am going to trim the sim day to real year ratio to 3days/year instead of 4 days/year. That leaves me with:

1. Childbirth

Chance of mother’s death in childbirth: 5% (1 in 20)
Chance of newborn death: 20% (4 in 20)

2. Baby: 4 days to age 16 months, chance of death at age-up 25% (5 in 20)

3. Toddler: 14 days to age 6, chance of death at age-up 15% (3 in 20)

4. Child: 18 days to age 12, chance of death at age-up 10% (2 in 20)

5. Teen: 18 days to age 18, chance of death at age-up 10% (2 in 20)

6. YA: 36 days to age 30, chance of death at age-up 20% (4 in 20)

7. Adult: 45 days to age 45, death chance 20% (4 in 20)

8. Elder: 30 days to age 55, at which point death is handed off to the game’s randomizer.

The reasoning here is that my research indicates that infant mortality was 48%, or roughly half. Of the people who survived to childhood, half of them made it to age 55. In my games, it’s not uncommon for sims to live 10 days after their official end-of-lifespan, so I think that should get us a close enough simulation. I think we’re unlikely to get the long-tail of people who lived to be really comparatively old like 75.

What’s really disturbing is that those numbers are KINDER than Morbid’s rolls. EEK.


Look, I know that miscegenation was a big deal until close to modern days, but I just don’t want to deal, ok? I don’t want to screw with making all my sims white or creating castes of different skintones who are allowed to marry each other and are only allowed in certain careers. I can deal with 25% of my sims surviving to a really-young lifespan target. I’m using mechanics for sexism and heterosexism and economic castes. But encoding racism into my mechanics just makes me feel queasy. This is just going to be a multicolored version of medieval England. All simulations give something up.


I’m a huge agriculture simulation nerd. (You should see me play Minecraft.) I’ve already looked up what foods were available in medieval England. I’m using Cooking Overhaul and Ani’s Hunting Mod. Unfortunately, the only grain available in the game is corn, and I haven’t found a mod that adds any other plantable grains. So we’ll just pretend corn is oats or rye, and I can use Ani’s food processor as a millstone to grind corn into flour.

I’m not sure how much of subsistence will be much of a story in between births and deaths, but I’ll have plenty of fun playing it :).

Inheritance and Location

I was done with sticking to one lot in Sims challenges since back in the Pinstar days. I just don’t know why the community got so attached to, “Buy a 64×64 lot and stay there for 10 generations,” as the foundation for so many challenges. I’ve never been willing to stick to one lot or one world. I play my games too in-depth, and I suck at building.

More importantly, I’ve done enough of defining a family line by the last name. In Morbid’s challenge, male inheritance means that the heir must be male and the girls will be married off with dowries. If the heir dies, a male cousin can inherit and so on. This all makes perfect sense. I just don’t think I need to define the heir of my story as the literal heir of the household wealth. I intend to pick whatever surviving child I want. When that child is female, the story will move into a new active household when she marries. After over a decade of Samples and Wonderlands, I’m interested in telling stories about those who leave, not just those who stay behind.

The Foundress

Last but not least, meet Emmaline Weaver.

Emmaline Weaver

Since she’s a woman, her surname won’t last very long.

Her traits are random rolled to be: Coward, Hydrophobic, Proper, Gatherer, and Light Sleeper

Those traits naturally resolved into a backstory for me, and I’ve had a lot of fun with her so far.

I want you to know that this is the first game I’ve ever played where the Proper trait was so big a deal. That curtsy greeting is the CUTEST THING EVAR.